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FA Cup 3rd Round: January 7th

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Selections

Manchester City vs Chelsea

It was a case of exactly how we predicted on Thursday night as Manchester City won 1-0 away at Chelsea in the Premier League.

We managed to get the 1-0 correct score, half-time draw, Man City full-time and under 2.5 goals as City won a tactical battle in the capital.

Graham Potter’s Chelsea had the better of the first half at Stamford Bridge and will consider themselves unlucky not to have scored after sub Carney Chukwuemeka hit the upright.

Chelsea managed to dominate first-half possession against Pep Guardiola’s men, which is no mean feat. But once Guardiola tinkered with things at half-time, there was only going to be one winner.

Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo made way at the break for the impressive Rico Lewis and Manuel Akanji and immediately City’s shape looked more balanced.

Rodri looked more at home after being caught between a holding role and centre-back in the first half and City took control. Guardiola tried to employ a back three in possession and back four with Rodri, out of possession.

Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez then entered the action and the pair combined for the latter to score the all-important goal as City moved into top gear.

The two teams will face each other again in the FA Cup on Sunday and it’s difficult to see a different outcome.

Potter also has more injuries to contend with as Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic went off against City in the first half.

Potter already has a crippling injury list with Mason Mount, Armando Broja, Wesley Fofana, Edouard Mendy, Reece James and N’Golo Kante missing.

It will leave Potter with very few options at The Etihad and the likes of Chukwuemeka and subs Lewis Hall, Conor Gallagher and Omari Hutchinson could get starts in M11.

And while Potter was scrabbling around for players for his bench, Guardiola turned to £200m worth talent to turn the game in his favour.

City are the overwhelming favourites to win again and with Guardiola unlikely to make the same mistake with his back three at The Etihad, the result looks likely to be similar and could be more convincing.

Potter said he was “proud” of his players, but it will be hard to instil much confidence in his group after another defeat to the champions.

Chelsea have problems scoring goals with just three scored in their last six games and Guardiola is likely to freshen up his team without weakening it too much on Sunday.

That all points to another City success and Potter most probably looking where to turn to next.

Key stats

  • Man City have been drawing at half-time and winning at full-time in their last four matches against Chelsea in all competitions
  • Man City have kept a clean sheet in their last four matches against Chelsea in all competitions
  • Man City have seen under 2.5 goals in their last five matches against Chelsea in all competitions
  • Man City have won their last five matches against Chelsea in all competitions

Gillingham vs Leicester City

Brendan Rodgers will be one Premier League manager cursing the World Cup break.

His Foxes side were flying pre-Qatar, but since returning to action Leicester have only a win
over MK Dons in the EFL Cup to show for their hard work.

Defeats against Newcastle, Liverpool and Fulham have knocked the wind from their sails.

Defeat at home to Newcastle was justified but the odd goal defeats in the other two games were
harsh. Rodgers’ men could have easily taken a point and more in both games.

Still, they have three straight losses on their record and face Newcastle next week in the EFL
Cup quarter-final.

Their eyes will, no doubt, be subconsciously on that game and changes are expected for the trip
to Priestfield.

The Gills have sold out their ground for their game of the season, despite their torrid run in
League Two.
The hosts are bottom of the league and face relegation to the National League after three
straight league defeats.
Their record this season is dreadful with just two wins from 11 at home. But in the cups they
have done well, beating Brentford away on penalties before losing at Wolves in the EFL Cup
fourth round.

They have also edged past Fylde and Dagenham and Redbridge to earn their place in the FA
Cup third round – and there’s no doubt Neil Harris will have them fired up against the Foxes.

Harris has asked for a shift in mentality and has pleaded for some wiggle room in the transfer
window.

“We are in January, the transfer window is open, we need players in the building as soon as
possible,” said Harris.
Just how his players will react to that is unclear, but if Leicester have their minds on Newcastle
then they could find trouble in Kent.

It may be too much to expect the Gills to win, but the draw at around 11/2 is worth getting involved in.

Key stats

  • Leicester have lost their last three Premier League games
  • Gillingham have lost their last four games in all competitions
  • Leicester have scored at least two goals in their last four matches against Gillingham in all competitions.

Liverpool vs Wolves

Jurgen Klopp has had plenty to think about this week after his Reds suffered another setback
with a damaging 3-1 defeat at Brentford.

For the most part those problems have come on the road with four defeats already this season.
Liverpool have been more like their old selves at home and only Leeds have won at Anfield so
far this term.
The Reds also top the xG charts at home (2.61) but they have also conceded in six of their nine
home games in the league.
Their confidence will undoubtedly have been knocked after defeat in Hounslow, but it’s likely
Klopp will make wholesale changes to his line-up.

Caoimhin Kelleher is set to start in goal and Virgil van Dijk will get a rest, while Liverpool’s
problematic midfield is likely to get another overhaul.

Cody Gakpo is in line to make his debut and youngster Ben Doak could get a run-out as Klopp
attempts to field a side capable of defending the trophy.

Wolves were unfortunate not to come away from Aston Villa with all three points on Wednesday
after an enterprising display under Julen Lopetegui.

Daniel Podence is a concern after scoring at Villa Park and Lopetegui may shuffle his pack with
a game against Forest in the EFL Cup next Wednesday.
Wolves’ xG (1.57) away from home has them in eighth place in the league – considerably higher
than their 19th place in the table. And they won on Boxing Day, beating Everton 2-1.

A Merseyside double is not out of the question, given the question marks over Liverpool’s
rearguard at the current time.

Wolves are worth chancing to win at Anfield, but both teams to score looks like the banker on Saturday night.

Key stats

  • Liverpool have won their last seven matches against Wolves in all competitions
  • In Liverpool’s last five games in all competitions, both teams have scored

Blackpool vs Nottingham Forest

Forest got off the mark away from home in the Premier League on Wednesday night with a 1-0
win at struggling Southampton.

Forest had only netted once in the league away from the City ground before Taiwo Awoniyi’s
winner against the Saints. And afterwards Steve Cooper challenged his side to stay out of the
relegation zone as they moved two points clear of the drop zone.
With that in mind they may be forgiven for taking their eye off the ball this weekend.

Cooper’s men have two cup games, starting at Blackpool on Saturday, before they face Wolves
in the EFL Cup quarter-final next week.

Forest are in the midst of a gruelling run of games – five in 14 days since the turn of the year.
And it’s likely Cooper will make changes against the Seasiders.

Cooper has tended to go strong in the Carabao Cup previously, with wins against Spurs and
Blackburn justifying his selections. But with Leicester to come a week on Saturday in a huge
derby game, then some of his fringe players are expected to be thrown in.

Cooper has praised the togetherness of the group that are not playing regular first-team football – and he looks set to reward those players with game time.

Blackpool have struggled for results of late, have not won at home since October and sit 22nd in
the Championship table.

Michael Appleton believes the game comes at a good time for his side, who he thinks have not
got the rewards they deserve in the last five games.

The draw on New Year’s Day at home to Sunderland followed a much-improved display,
especially in the first half when Blackpool were on the front foot and took the lead through
Shayne Lavery.
Their xG (1.43) at home also points to a higher position in the table (16th) than their league
position. But they do also concede chances and the xGA modelling at home (1.74) pits them as
the worst in the second tier.

That is reflected in their price, with the hosts up at around 16/5 and Forest odds on.

It will be a brave punter to go all out on Blackpool, but with Forest expected to be well below strength, it could well pay to go for the hosts ‘Draw No Bet’ with goals likely.

Key stats

  • Blackpool have seen over 2.5 goals in six of their last seven home matches against Nottingham Forest in all competitions
  • Nottingham Forest have scored at least two goals in their last four matches against Blackpool in all competitions
  • Nottingham Forest are undefeated in nine of their last 10 matches against Blackpool in all competitions

Hull City vs Fulham

There will be two familiar managers up against their old clubs on Saturday when Hull take on
Fulham.

Cottagers old boy Liam Rosenior played 92 times for the club, but he is now in charge at Hull
and has guided them to 16th place and to within six points of the top six.

They have just one defeat in his seven games in charge and he will face former Tigers boss
Marco Silva for a place in round four of the FA Cup.

Silva’s men are bang in form, winning their last three matches, although the 1-0 win at Leicester
was slightly fortuitous.

Fulham do have a big west London derby with Chelsea on the horizon next Thursday and a trip
to Newcastle three days later.
That schedule may be enough to see Silva rest his big guns. Silva did exactly that in the EFL
Cup earlier this season and that ended in disaster as his side, with 10 changes, lost 2-0 at
Crawley.

Another repeat of that could be on the cards, but Hull do give away chances on home soil. Their
xGA (1.5) is almost the worst in the league and both teams have scored in their last four at the
MKM Stadium.

Backing goals in Yorkshire looks the way to go with Hull’s Oscar Estupinan bang in form, rather than hanging your hat on a home or away win.

Key stats

  • Fulham have kept a clean sheet in their last three matches against Hull in all competitions


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